Marketing is a bit of a buzzword, isn’t it? It’s one of those terms we throw around freely that conjures images of slick advertising, fancy sales techniques, and lots and lots of money behind it.
But it doesn’t have to be such a heavy word. In fact, you can create and execute a solid music marketing plan even without a hefty budget and with a strong vision for where you’re going and who you want to impact along the way.
While marketing might seem like a scary word, or you might sigh at the idea of one more thing to add to your list, when done properly, marketing is an incredible way to connect with your fans while growing your visibility. So don’t think of it as some big, scary, corporate word—think of it as a way to strengthen your existing bond with fans, while reaching a wider audience, which will allow you to impact even more people with your music and message. The more people you reach, the more lives you change, and the stronger community you build. When you think of it that way, what do you have to lose? Here are five steps to putting together a music marketing plan.
Understand your goals
The first step in any business (and yes, your band counts as a business) is to really understand what it is you’re going after. Now, you might think you already have your goals figured out, but let me ask you: how specific are they? Because if they aren’t very specific you’re going to have a harder time reaching them.
For instance, saying “I want to tour” is a good start, but it leaves a little too much up in the air. Do you want to tour regionally? Nationally? Internationally? How many weeks or months out of the year? Do you only want to tour if you make a profit or are you willing to lose money for a while?” These are all the things you want to ask yourself. Don’t forget that your goals should be realistic and while it’s great to have long term goals, your marketing plan will likely focus on the shorter term goals of the next year or so. Which means if you’re a relatively new band you likely won’t be able to tour for 3 months out of the year right away. But you could set a goal of a one-month summer tour when everyone is on break and you’ve had time to save up some money, borrow a van, and prepare.
Now, because marketing is as much about solid numbers and sales as anything, you might want to have some financial goals in here as well. Again, keep it realistic. Making a living off your music in year one is unlikely. But having a goal to be making $500 /month by X date in ticket sales and merch sales might be. The idea is to get a sense of where you’re going so that you can put together a plan for how you’re going to get there.
In that example, it might mean strategically playing certain venues at certain points (e.g. only once a month to build hype) and creating exclusive merch for those shows that you build excitement around via your IG stories and FB lives. Then, at the show, be sure you’re always encouraging people to come hang out at your merch table after your set, and engaging them in chit-chat to make sure they’re comfortable. Being able to do that consistently, and having a $10 shirt for sale, and a $5 pin someone picks up, and another grabbing a $25 vinyl…it adds up over time.
Solidify your brand
Part of knowing where you’re going and how you’re going to communicate that to your fans is knowing what you stand for and the image you want to project. In a nutshell, that’s what your brand is all about. It’s a way to tell your fans “this is who I am, this is what I believe and this is what I’m passionate about.”
Finding your brand is a time intensive process, but it’s also a crucial part of everything from your marketing plan to your social media presence to the way you perform on stage and everything in between.
Spend some time asking yourself the following questions and defining your brand:
- Why do I do what I do? What gets me up in the morning?
- What kind of message do I want to spread?
- How do I want to leave my fans feeling?
- What do I care about more than anything? (e.g. helping people find their passions, saving the environment, spreading love)
There are so many incredible branding guidelines out there, but this should help get you started.
Have a solid timeline
The next step is to get together a solid timeline based off the goals you just put together, and the mini goals that lead to them. For instance, if you know you want to release your album in October, your timeline might include a marketing plan for running ads on Facebook during release week, planning your show 2 months in advance to make sure you get the date you want, finding PR a solid 3 months in advance, and so on.
Your timeline will look differently depending on your goals, but knowing exactly when things need to happen will help keep you on track and make sure you’re not left staring at your computer wondering what to do next. (been there.)
Start small, grow strong
One very important thing to remember with marketing, and really in all aspects of your career, is to start small, and to really be ok with that. We can get so caught up in the excitement of where we’re going and how amazing it’s going to be when we get there, that we forget about all the stepping stones in between. But honestly, those could be some of the best moments of your life and the most rewarding in your career.
So while it might seem tempting to make marketing goals like “Make $50,000 this year on my music!” try to keep it realistic like “Make $500/month off shows in July/August” (maybe you know that’s a strong season for fan turnout in your city so you start there.)
You can always re-evaluate and adjust as you grow, because your goals will grow too. The main goal here is to stay in a positive headspace, and to feel good about the things you’re accomplishing.
Lastly, make sure to do regular check-ins and adjust as needed. If you put together a marketing plan in January, it’s completely possible that by May things will look totally different and you’ll have to adjust. Sometimes things are going better than you imagined, and sometimes you’ll find you’ve hit a few roadblocks. Either is ok—you just want to make sure you’re adjusting as needed and making sure you do what works for you.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.